British Columbia in 2012 continued to exhibit its strength as the mining and exploration powerhouse of the North American Cordillera.
The Canadian province’s wealth of mineral potential is the result of geological phenomena that also created the mountain chains “that we have in our province and to the north,” according to Bruce Madu, director of the Mineral Development Office of the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines.
Madu told participants in the 2012 Mineral Exploration Roundup in January that expansion is the theme at most of British Columbia’s metal mines, with more than C$1.2 billion currently being spent on upgrades.
He said the B.C. government anticipates at least eight new mine openings and nine mine expansions by the end of 2015.
“This could expand B.C.’s mineral mine production value by more than C$1.6 billion per year; add more than 1,800 new jobs and sustain 5,000 existing mining jobs,” B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Rich Coleman said during his welcoming remarks at the 2012 Roundup.
“BC has the mineral resources the world needs,” said Gavin C. Dirom, president and CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration BC. “These natural resources belong to every British Columbian, and today’s budget helps to ensure that the government is creating a prudent economic climate that attracts further investment to successfully and responsibly explore for and develop BC’s mineral resources for the benefit of every family in the province.”
Based on industry-based surveys, Natural Resources Canada in March projected exploration and appraisal expenditures on mineral deposits in British Columbia to hit a record C$812.3 million in 2012, up 43 percent from C$567.7 million in comparable spending in 2011. This spending level would make the western province the second-most popular jurisdiction for such mining industry investments in Canada after Ontario. NRCan will release updated figures in November.
Exploration activity in northern British Columbia, which reached record levels of spending and meters drilled in 2011, is again making a strong showing in 2012 despite the difficulties many junior mining companies encountered raising capital in the markets during the year.
In 2011, explorers spent about C$220 million and drilled 380,467 meters in Northwest British Columbia, reflecting a 22 percent increase from 2010 levels and included at least 54 drilling projects (21 projects with more than C$2 million each in expenditures.)
Several mine projects located in this diverse, mineral-rich area continued to advance through environmental assessment processes in 2012, including the Red Chris copper-gold, KSM gold-copper, Kitsault molybdenum, Kutcho Creek copper-zinc, Schaft Creek copper-gold-molybdenum and Morrison copper projects.
Chieftain Metals Inc., owner of the Tulsequah Chief copper-zinc-gold-silver reported considerable progress toward development as did Fortune Minerals Ltd.’s Mount Klappan Coal.
Several small mine (less than 75,000 metric tons milled per year) projects also reported progress toward development, including Dome Mountain underground gold, Fireside barite, Yellow Jacket gold and Silver Tip silver lead-zinc.
Construction is underway on the 344-kilometer (213 miles) Northwest Transmission line from Skeena Substation (near Terrace) north to a new substation near Bob Quinn Lake. The line, currently projected to cost C$561 million, is expected to bring affordable power within reach of many mine projects being developed in Northwest B.C. BCHydro anticipates offering service via the 287-kilovolt conduit at Bob Quinn Lake in spring 2014.
The North-central Omineca Region reported an apparent doubling in exploration activity with spending in 2011 estimated at C$71.5 million. Likewise, drilling activity totaled about 162,000 meters, compared with about 83,000 meters in 2010. The principal exploration focus remained upon porphyry and epithermal copper-gold prospects in the Quesnel and eastern Stikine terranes. In addition to porphyry deposits, sedimentary exhalative, rare-earth elements, ultramafic-hosted nickel, and vein-hosted gold deposits remained important targets. The main focus of industrial mineral exploration was high-purity sandstone for processing into frac sand.
British Columbia’s northeast region also reported nearly doubling exploration expenditures in 2011 to about C$44.3 million (C$39.5 million excluding on-lease exploration) over 2009 and 2010 levels. Exploration drilling, at about 66,000 meters, was also up substantially. This increase in activity levels occurred in spite of significant environmental and cultural constraints on activities.
Pro-mining initiativesThe B.C. Government has a number of initiatives underway to encourage a strong mineral exploration and development sector and build upon the record mineral exploration expenditures of C$463 million achieved in BC in 2011.
“We have been encouraged by the government’s strategic measures to reduce red tape and develop BC as a magnet for global investment. These measures include reducing the backlog of notices of work permit applications by 80 per cent by the end of August 2012, investing C$12 million in Geoscience BC and continued funding for regional government geologists to improve the public’s and industry’s understanding of BC’s mineral development potential and land use opportunities,” Dirom said.
In July Geoscience BC reported commissioning its 2012 QUEST-Northwest airborne magnetic survey south of Iskut, B.C. The survey specifications will be similar to two Geoscience BC surveys flown in the area in 2011, with east-west lines spaced 250 meters apart. Geoscience BC anticipated being able to release the new data set in early 2013. The QUEST-Northwest Project, originally launched in 2011, is designed to stimulate new mineral exploration activity in northwest British Columbia, and to enhance the success of existing exploration activities in the region. The 2011 program included two airborne magnetic surveys, a regional geochemical program, and geological mapping.
Exploration standouts in 2012Pretium Resources Inc. set itself apart early in 2012, reporting a prolonged series of bonanza assay results from its gold-rich Brucejack Project in northern B.C. By Sept. 18, Pretium had reported numerous bonanza-grade gold intersections up to 8,151 grams per metric ton gold uncut over 0.50 meters in the Valley of the Kings zone at Brucejack. The Valley of the Kings now extends more than 800 meters in strike length and is open to the east, west, and at depth. Nine drills continued turning at Brucejack, with the 2012 exploration program expected to be completed early in the fourth quarter.
Other BC explorers that made significant progress on their respective projects in northern and central British Columbia include Homestake Resource Corp., BCGold Corp, Romios Gold Resources Inc., Commander Resources Ltd., SnipGold Corp., Decade Resources Ltd., China Minerals Mining Corp., Clemson Resources Corp., Canasia Industries Corp., Chieftain Metals Inc., Canarc Resource Corp., Yellowjacket Resources Ltd., Brixton Metals Corp., NGEx Resources Inc., Driven Capital Corp., Consolidated Woodjam Copper Corp., Gold Fields Ltd. and New Gold Inc.